03/25/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Maui's Edible Garden for Children

A few days ago, the Sweetie and I visited a 10,000-foot edible schoolyard garden planted by and for elementary school children in S. Kihei, Maui.

What a joy to be surrounded by robust pole beans, herbs, and tomatoes all planted by second and third graders.

We met with three dedicated members of South Maui Sustainability who have volunteered specifically to make this schoolyard garden flourish. Afterwards we visited with three dedicated teachers who talked about how they are using the garden to educate the children not only about gardening, but about math, biology, and eating more vegetables.

Everything we saw and heard proved blatantly wrongheaded the argument put forth by Caitlin Flanagan in a recent issue of the Atlantic Monthly that learning to garden is a waste of time for children. (To access Corby Kummer's round-up of schoolyard gardeners rebuttals, click here.)

In this first clip, (courtesy of the South Maui Sustainability group), you'll see how volunteers helped Kihei Elementary 2nd grade teacher Alana Kaopuiki create the school garden. The video features one of Ms. Kaopuiki's science classes as they plant and weed a garden bed with training provided by South Maui Sustainability member Blaze (Gene Weaver) and Emily Goss, the committee chair for school gardens and the inspiration behind this project.

What follows are some informal videos shot by Michael Steinman during our visit on January 20, 2010. In the first few clips, we have a tour of the garden beds by Kathy Becklin (SMS, Master Gardener, in blue); Nio Kindla (garden caretaker and professional chef, in black) and Kirk Surry (SMS volunteer, in grey). I'm the one in a sleeveless black top, listening intently and asking the occasional question. You'll hear about the challenges of growing in this particular environment, including the wind which you'll hear in the background. I comment on the similarities I experienced when volunteering in the children's program at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, one being that many children are afraid to get dirt on their hands.

In the last two clips, we continue indoors for a chat with teachers about the potential of the garden. Included are Sharon Castile (third grade teacher, in green stripes); Alana Kaopuiki (second grade teacher, in grey and black stripes) and Roberta Kokx (third grade teacher, in black).

It surprised us to learn that despite the many farms on the island and the trees everywhere dripping with citrus, many of the children living on Maui don't have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and have no idea how they grow or where they come from.

It turns out that despite a long-standing agricultural heritage and the lush environment for growing, over 90% of the food eaten on this island is imported -- yet another example of our food system gone topsy turvy.

Although much of Maui is still planted in sugar cane, the pineapple plantations are close to defunct and there is plenty of land for growing. Trouble for these kids is that most of their parents work two jobs and have no time to grow their own food.

When one of the children was asked where a tomato came from, he replied: "The supermarket!"

We feel reassured that with the continued dedication of the teachers and volunteers we met on this memorable visit, the answer to this question will soon be "the earth."